Day 2 – Stronger, Lighter, Farther

Tuesday, May 30th, 7:45 AM – Departed from a super-secret camping spot in Scanlon, MN. 

Conditions: Temp – 47* / Wind – WNW at 10 mph, gusting to 20 /  Sky – Low overcast, occasional drizzle. Again, morning weather conditions persisted throughout the day with light showers in the late afternoon. Sky’s began clearing in the late evening. 

8:25 PM – Arrived Barnum, MN. 24.7 miles, 68,212 steps, 540 miles remaining.

Sometimes when you least expect it – and in the middle of a very challenging day – the power of human nature can raise your spirits in a way that nothing else can. When I think of Day 2 on this walk, that is what I’m going to remember. 

Bleak is the word that comes to mind when I think of the start of this day. I was sore, disoriented and missing my home. I knew it was going to be a long, hard day, and that wasn’t helping my spirits any. At 7:45, I left the KwikTrip in Scanlon, MN and headed west. My first destination, the Cloquet-Carlton County Airport, was just five miles away. Something highly motivational waited for me there: a hot shower and a place to get out of the wind for a few minutes. As I plodded west on Higway 45, the kinks slowly began to work out of my body, and my mood started to improve. The weather felt more like a blustery autumn day, and that certainly wasn’t making things any easier.

The airport was pretty quiet when I arrived there. The low, scuddy clouds were keeping most pilots on the ground. Only a few pilot types were “hanger flying” in the FBO (Fixed Base Operator) building, and the environment was relaxed and conversational. 

After grabbing a hot shower to wash of the stink of the previous day, I got my gear packed into he trailer and made ready to depart for the long journey that still remained in front of me. As I did, and elderly gentleman wearing a “State Patrol, Aviation Sector” hat began asking me questions about what I was doing. We had a brief but pleasant conversation about airplanes, our flying roots, and of course, the state of our country and economy. In the short time we spoke, we were able to solve most of the world’s problems, and as we went our separate ways, he handed me a donation and wished me the best of luck on my adventure. Afterwards, I realized that I didn’t even get his name, and felt like a class A jerk. I resolved to get better at that, and departed with a lighter heart.

Just a couple of miles down the road, a pick-up truck pulling a small dump trailer slowed and pulled up beside me. Driving the pick-up was Elizabeth Kortie, and with a smile as big as Texas, she handed me a stack of small bills, saying, “It’s all that I have, but I wanted to donate to your walk.” If I liveto be a thousand years old, I will never forget that smile and how it warmed my heart for the remainder of the day. Thank you Elizabeth. My faith in the human condition has once again been restored. 

The rest of the day just sort of blurred by. I don’t mean to say that I didn’t see beautiful things. I did. But with the miles I still had in front of me, the day became more of a test of will. Arriving at the Willard Munger State Trail was a highlight. The break from walking on roadsides was welcome to say the least. TJ’s Country Store was also a welcome sight. A small town grocery store like those I’d known as a kid, the smells of a meat market and fresh produce almost made me weak in the knees as I walked through the door. I was like a kid in a candy store! No five-star restaurant could ever prepare a meal as delicious as the one I purchased and ate at the picnic table outside. 

I arrived at my destination – the Barnum City Campground – at 8:25 PM. I was exhausted and my body hurt everywhere, but had reached my goal! I pitched my tent, crawled inside, and slept eight hours without waking. 

Thanks to the amazing people who helped me along the way, Day 2 was a huge success. I will forever be indebted to the amazing folks at the Cloquet-Carlton County airport, the State Patrol gentleman who helped me to solve the world’s problems, Elizabeth Kortie and her “road donation,” and of course, all of you who followed along with me. Thanks to all! See you out there…

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